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Suhr wins emotional gold; Tinsley surprises with silver

8/6/2012
 
LONDON - Long the best pole vaulter in the United States, Jenn Suhr officially became the best pole vaulter in the world Monday evening when she won the gold medal in a stirring competition at Olympic Stadium. On the track, Michael Tinsley won a surprising, and well-earned, silver in the men’s 400m hurdles.

Suhr shines

Having recovered from a 2012 season that saw her struggle with achilles problems in the indoor season and quad problems this outdoor season, Suhr (Churchville, N.Y.) jumped efficiently, strategically and well throughout the windy, blustery night. By the time the 2008 silver medalist entered the competition and recorded a first-attempt clearance at 4.55m/14 feet, 11 inches, she was already in the top four, and Becky Holliday (Jonesboro, Ark.) had placed ninth with a best clearance of 4.45/14-7.25.

Suhr passed at 4.65/15-3, and three other women remained when she resumed jumping at 4.70m/15-5: Yarisley Silva of Cuba, Silke Spiegelburg of Germany and world record holder and defending gold medalist Yelena Isinbayeva of Russia. Suhr again cleared on her first try, as did Silva and Isinbayeva. Spiegelburg missed and passed to the next height of 4.75m/15-7.

All four women missed their first attempts at 4.75, and Suhr took the lead when she cleared on her second attempt. Silva then followed with a second-attempt clearance to set a Cuban national record and take over second place, owing to a miss on her opening jump at 4.45m/14-7.25. Spiegelburg had two misses to bow out of the competition. Isinbayeva missed twice and passed on her third attempt as the bar rose to 4.80m/15-9.

Suhr, Silva and Isinbayeva all missed on their first try at 4.80, knocking Isinbayeva out of the competition and leaving a two-woman duel. Jumping first in the order, Suhr missed on her second attempt, as did Silva. Suhr again was not close on her third try, putting Silva in a position to control her own destiny: win and get the gold, miss and get the silver.

Silva missed.

With her victory, Suhr joined Stacy Dragila (2000) - whose American records she has rewritten - as American Olympic gold medalists in the event.

Tinsley torches final meters
In the men’s 400m hurdles final, many had wondered if 2000 and 2008 gold medalist Angelo Taylor could do the impossible at age 33, but it was another American who stole the show.

Taylor (Atlanta, Ga.) got out at a strong pace and executed well, coming off the final turn with a narrow lead over Felix Sanchez of the Dominican Republic and Javier Culson of Puerto Rico. The duo pulled even with Taylor and soon passed him to make it appear a 1-2 Caribbean showing was on tap.  Michael Tinsley (Round Rock, Texas) had other ideas, coming seemingly from out of nowhere off the last hurdle to sprint to second place, crossing the line in a personal best of 47.91. The 2004 Olympic champion, Sanchez duplicated Taylor’s feat of winning Olympic gold 8 years apart with his time of 47.63 (coincidentally, the same time as his 2004 win). Culson was third in 48.10, Dai Greene of Great Britain was fourth in 48.24, Taylor finished fifth in 48.25 and Kerron Clement was eighth in 49.15, six months after undergoing surgery for hernia repair and adductor release.

Women’s SP, SC
Michelle Carter (Ovilla, Texas) logged the best Olympic showing by a U.S. women’s shot putter in 16 years, placing sixth Monday night. She opened her competition with a throw of 19.05m/62-6 and was in seventh after three rounds. She improved to 19.42/63-8.75 in round 4 to move up to fifth, but could not improve on that mark and finished sixth for the highest finish by a U.S. woman since Connie Price-Smith, a member of the 2012 Olympic Team staff, was fifth in 1996.Nadzeya Ostapchuk of Belarus won in 21.36m/70-1, with 2008 Olympic champion Valerie Adams finishing second in 20.70m/67-11, and 22-year-old Evgeniia Kolodko of Russia third in a personal best of 20.48m/67-2.25.

In the final of the women’s 3,000m steeplechase final, Emma Coburn (Crested Butte, Colo.) knocked nearly two seconds off of her personal best as she crossed the line in  9:23.54 in ninth place. Bridget Franek (Eugene, Ore.) took 14th in 9:45.51. Yuliya Zaripova of Russia charged to the finish to win in 9:06.72.

Hurdling trio advance
All three Team USA athletes advanced to the Wednesday night’s final of the women’s 400H, with American record-holder and reigning world champion Lashinda Demus the quickest at 54.08 in winning the second heat. Georganne Moline was second in heat 3 at 54.74 to take an automatic spot, with T’erea Brown taking one of the time qualifier positions at a lifetime-best 54.21 to place third in heat 1.

In the first round of the women’s 200 meters, defending silver medalist Allyson Felix (Santa Clarita, Calif.) won heat 2 in 22.72, and 100m silver medalist Carmelita Jeter (Gardena, Calif.) looked very strong winning heat 3 in 22.65. Coming off her 400m victory and late bedtime the night before, Sanya Richards (Austin, Texas) went out conservatively and rallied to win heat 4 in 22.48, the fastest time of the day.

Team USA Medal Count - 9 total
Gold (2)
Jenn Suhr (Churchville, N.Y.), WPV, 4.75/15-7
Sanya Richards-Ross (Austin, Texas), w400, 49.55

Silver (3)
Michael Tinsley (Round Rock, Texas), M400H, 47.91
Carmelita Jeter (Gardena, Calif.), W100, 10.78
Galen Rupp (Portland, Ore.), M10,000m, 27:30.90

Bronze (4)
Justin Gatlin (Orlando, Fla.) M100, 9.79
DeeDee Trotter (Orlando, Fla.), W400, 49.72
Will Claye (San Diego, Calif.), MLJ, 8.12m/26-7.75
Reese Hoffa (Athens, Ga.), MSP, 21.23m/69-8

Athlete Quotes
Jenn Suhr, Pole Vault: “It’s very emotional. It’s something that you work so hard for, for four years, and heartbreak and joy, and then some more heartbreak. To overcome it and come out on top is something that whenever I thought of I started crying, so I knew it was just going to be emotional, whenever I thought about how it would feel to win gold. Then I would think of how it would feel to be fourth, and I’d cry over that too. It was definitely something that I’ve wanted, I don’t think I’ve ever wanted anything so bad.”

Becky Holliday, Pole Vault: “Her (Suhr) and I have been competitors and friends for a long time, so I wanted to stay out on the field and have front row seats to watch her. I know that she wanted the gold, so I’m really excited for her...The winds were really bad today, and that’s just the way it goes in these competitions. I’m 115 pounds and those winds are just hard on us little vaulters...I have worked for so long and now I can say I’m an Olympic finalist.”

Michael Tinsley, 400m Hurdles: “I’ve been dreaming about this moment since I bought my first pair of spikes. I put my life into this. I’ve had to sacrifice so much for this, I’m so proud. I’ve been running my hardest...I think in college I was a strong finisher. My first year on the circuit, I kind of got away from that. Me and my coach got back to some of the basics that really helped me on my finish.”

Angelo Taylor, 400m Hurdles: “I got out pretty good. I tried to get my rhythm. This race is all about momentum. I just broke my momentum. This field is tough. It’s the toughest 400m hurdles field I’ve seen.”
(On 2013) “Next year is definitely my last year. Definitely going for a World Championship medal. I still have passion for the sport and still want to compete.”

Kerron Clement, 400m Hurdles: “I’ve had a very tough season. I just really thank God for me to make the Olympic final. I didn’t think I would be in this position, honestly. I’m honestly just happy. Back in February I had surgery, and I didn’t know if I would make it to the even the Trials, or the Olympics. I’m just happy.”

Michelle Carter, Shot Put: “I felt good today. Sixth place wasn’t bad for my second Olympics. My season isn’t over. I’ll continue to work hard. Success comes with growing and learning. I’m not mad, I’m a little disappointed but it will come when it comes. I’m still young in my sport.”

Allyson Felix, 200m: “It’s good. I wanted to get out and work the first half and control the rest. I just wanted to control the race today.”

Carmelita Jeter, 200m: “I’m feeling pretty good. I wanted to go out and wake up my body. Right now it needs to be in the 200. We train for victories. We are professionals and this is what we train for.”

Sanya Richards Ross, 200m: “I am excited to be back on the track. I feel lighter and free.”
(when asked about last night’s victory in the 400m) “I didn’t get much sleep. My family has a place close to the Village. We celebrated till 2. When I laid down I couldn’t sleep. I wore my gold medal most of the night. I gave it to my dad to be the temporary keeper. ”

Georgeanne Moline, 400m Hurdles: “I feel great and I’m excited. It’s a new day. It means more than anything to me [to be in the final]. I never really thought I would be here months ago. To be here, I’m so grateful. I have a great support system, amazing coach and mom and family and friends. I couldn’t be more happy.”

Lashinda Demus, 400m Hurdles: “I tried to work on something, and I kind of messed up a bit. I had pretty bad technical race, but that’s what the rounds are for. I know that I’ll get it right in the final.”

T’erea Brown, 400m Hurdles:  I ran a clean race.  I didn’t stutter.  I really think I ran a great race.  Physically, I felt good.  I felt relaxed, I felt good.  At the Games, anything can happen.  I’m just praying that I get the opportunity to go for it.”

Bridget Franek, 3,000m Steeplechase: “I am happy to say I was in the Olympic final. I have things to improve on. I think I was capable, it just didn’t happen. The wheels came off with five laps to go. I just couldn’t respond.”

For more information on the 2012 Olympic Games, visit www.usatf.org

Katie Branham
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USA Track & Field
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